Over the course of my career as an IT professional, I have come across more frustrated business users and executives than those that truly know how to understand, apply and integrate technology into their business strategy. In fact, I can count the number of satisfied users on only two hands. In my experience, I find that there are three shared technology frustration drivers that are root causes among business users regardless of industry and creed. I recently moved from the CIO role to CEO at AcuteNet – a SaaS company focused on addressing the challenges the front line health care providers face with the shortcomings of technology. I find it remarkable that even as a CEO of a software company, I still find IT to be an enigma to most. So here is my take as how IT professionals can demystify IT and change the conversation:
- Technology cannot fix poorly designed business processes or ill-defined business strategy. Technology is mostly about efficiency as opposed to effectiveness. It is akin to having a dishwasher and washing machine at home; it does not make an individual a better parent just because they can perform a transactional task better, faster and cheaper. Organizations that blame IT for their misfortunes indeed get what they deserve, which is lackluster IT. Leaders need to step up and put a stop to a behaviour culture that blames IT for poor business design and strategy. In his book titled “Phoenix Project”, IT thought leader Gene Kim depicts this aspect of IT enigma quite brilliantly. In his book, we see a CEO removing his company’s CIO due to an extensive blame game and where IT is the supposedly the reason why the company is failing to perform. Although the book is a work of fiction, the story line is an experience that I have shared with numerous CIOs. This misunderstanding in my view is rooted in misplaced expectations as what technology can or cannot do to advance the business strategy of any corporation.
- No one has a monopoly on wisdom, or, more importantly, technology. IT professionals need to stop being so bossy and should not demand the business to change to accommodate technology enabled solutions. Instead, IT professionals need to embrace “Design Thinking”. Those that do are able to create technology enabled solutions that improve the user experience and productivity within existing business processes. Business-focused people know their business well and are quite capable of changing their business practices as they see fit. They do not appreciate IT professionals who are consumed by their own geek gadgets telling them what to do. Roger Martin has published numerous books and articles on the topic of “Design Thinking” and I find Rotman magazine to be an excellent source for me to hone the skillset of design through their well-articulated and relevant articles. I personally have benefitted immensely form the process of “Design Thinking” and have been able to deliver a number of transformational technology enabled business capabilities by understanding the problem before jumping into IT solution mode.
- IT needs to become the business and know the business by heart. This means that IT professionals need to transform themselves into the System Integrators and Management Consultants of their specific company’s business strategy and leverage public and private partnerships for specific IT solutions. They need to note that their paycheque says the name of their company and not the name of the specific technology software or hardware that they preach. IT professionals including yours trulyneed to become technology agnostic and grow into masters of design and integration so we can indeed leverage the power of partnership to embed the right technology for the right reason in the right way for their organization. I recommend spending 20 minutes to watch Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” to understand why we need to change our posture towards our discipline.
I always remind myself that the discipline of IT as a profession is at best about 50 years old and we still have many more years ahead of us to attain the wisdom of disciplines such as legal, finance, sales, engineering, etc. The conversation to demystify the IT enigma is a journey of sharing experiences and viewpoints. I hope you the Reader can share the journey and share your perspective so we collectively can demystify our enigma.